There are many opinions I hold and practices I follow that people find objectionable. As a feminist and a lesbian and a woman, I know that I am bound to run into people who don’t approve of who I am or what I think. I’ve had boys wait for me after class to tell me that they had a problem with my sexuality; I’ve been harassed on Facebook by a man who didn’t like an article I wrote about how there was no war on men. I’m not surprised when people react strongly when I speak about sexuality and gender. But there are times when people’s reactions do surprise me.
It may shock my reader to know that generally, I don’t read books by or about men. This has been my practice since early childhood. I gravitated toward women writers and female characters because I felt that I had nothing in common with boys and men. I did read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, as well as Diane Wynne Jones’ Chronicles of Chrestomanci series, both of which feature male characters as main characters. But I have always preferred women in my readings.
It’s a habit that has persisted into adulthood. On my bookshelves, you’ll find mostly books written by women, about female characters. I must admit, I still feel a certain alienation from male writers and characters. I would not characterize my preference for women’s writing as an avoidance of men, however. Now, as an adult woman, I am more interested in reading women’s work because even though it is often not treated as seriously as men’s writing, I think that women have something important to say.
I don’t often tell people this, because people find it both astounding and somehow bigoted of me. I disagree, of course, but people seem convinced that it’s sexist of me to prefer women writers. I don’t care what they think, but I do find it very interesting that people react so negatively to my preference, when there tends to be a preference for men in all media.
If you look at the top earning actors, you have to go down to number nine to find a woman. On a list of fifty, there are only seven women in total. Women are represented less than men in film and television, at a rate of about three men to every one woman. Women are underrepresented as directors, writers, and producers. While women are better represented among top earning authors, nine out of the fifteen top earning authors are men.
So I don’t really feel bad about only reading books by and about women. It doesn’t do anyone harm, and I don’t feel it limits me in any way. I can’t help but think that people are just appalled that a woman is not interested in what men have to say. No one seems to have a problem with men who don’t want to be exposed to women’s media (chick lit, romantic comedies, soap operas), but somehow it’s unacceptable for a woman to not care about what men produce.
I’m not pushing some kind of anti-man agenda. I watch men on television and in movies. It’s just that sometimes, I want to hear about women, and I’m not sorry about that.